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Hamma to Retire as Editorial Director in July

March 7, 2016

Robert Hamma had been interested in publishing before he began his second career as an editor at Paulist Press in 1984.

His background in ministry and two theology degrees from Immaculate Conception Seminary and the University of Notre Dame drew him toward Catholic publishing. Hamma will retire in July after 25 years at Ave Maria Press.

He learned the publishing business at Paulist Press, where he acquired and edited books, worked with RENEW, and developed resources for RCIA and college-level theology.

Hamma and his wife, Kathy Schneider, met at Notre Dame and they wanted to return to their circle of friends in the area. In 1991, Hamma was hired by Frank Cunningham as a book editor at Ave, as well as editor of Spiritual Book Associates, which involved working with about a half-dozen other publishers whose books were included in the book club. In that role Hamma also served as editor of Spiritual Book News, which was published eight times a year. He was promoted to editorial director in 1996.

Hamma estimates he’s edited about 200 books, including those of such notable authors as Sr. Joyce Rupp, Robert Wicks, Henri Nouwen, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, Msgr. Peter Vaghi, Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, Christine Valters Paintner, Michael Pennock, Judy Cannato, Msgr. Joseph Champlin, Fr. Ed Hays, John Kirvan, Sr. Anne Bryan Smollin, and Br. Loughlan Sofield.

Hamma is a respected part of Ave’s team. “Oh, how I will miss having Bob Hamma as my editor,” Rupp said. “He polished my manuscripts with his editorial skills and often restored my confidence. I owe so much to Bob for how kindly he approached my writing and the deftness with which he brought it to fuller life.”

Added current Ave Maria Press publisher Tom Grady, “After such a long and fruitful tenure at Ave, Bob has earned his retirement, but it will be hard to imagine this organization without him.”

Digital technology has open up new opportunities for publishing, Hamma said, and the pace of the work has increased accordingly. Communication with authors is instantaneous now, allowing editors to be more productive. Changes in the Catholic Church itself have altered the focus of publishing from primarily books for priests and religious to publications for lay Catholics exploring what it means to be part of the faith today. “Interest in Catholic identity has really shaped the kind of publishing we do,” Hamma said.

He is still discerning plans for the future, but Hamma wants to remain involved in publishing in a limited way, possibly to write and teach, and to work especially with Spanish-speaking Catholics. “It’s been 25 years and I feel like I am in place where I have a lot of energy for new things and I’m ready to make a change and step back from the fast pace.”

Ave will begin searching for Hamma’s successor immediately.

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